The Dakatcha landscape consists of a series of dry forests, dense thickets and open woodlands interspersed with active and abandoned farmlands, in the rolling hills northwest of Malindi town.
To the south, the site is bordered by the wide Galana-Sabaki River. The wooded hills are vital water catchments for the surrounding farmland.
The protection of Clarke’s weaver
Dakatcha Woodland is one of Kenya's 60 IBAs and is home to a number of globally threatened birds such as the southern banded snake eagle, Fischer's turaco, Sokoke scops owl, Sokoke pipit and Clarke's weaver.
Clarke's weaver is found in only two places on Earth: Dakatcha Woodland and Arabuko-Sokoke Forest to the south. It was thought that Clarke's weaver probably nests in Dakatcha Woodland and in Spring 2013 this was confirmed. This site is therefore of critical conservation value to Kenya and the world. Without Dakatcha Woodland, Clarke's weaver would become extinct.
Dakatcha Woodland has also been identified as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) and a Global Biodiversity Hotspot critical for globally threatened plants and animals found only in a few East African coastal forests. However, despite its importance for water catchment, for neighbouring communities and for plant and animal diversity, Dakatcha Woodland has no formal protection status.
The challenges faced by local communities
The northwestern part of Malindi presents many challenges to the people who live there. There are few sources of permanent water in this area and the soils are sandy and infertile, so meaningful agricultural activities for subsistence and income generation are very difficult. A major source of income for local communities over the past 30-40 years has been selective logging of trees, sold as timber in nearby coastal towns. Since 2005, significant commercial charcoal production started in Dakatcha Woodland, leading to clear felling of large sections of woodland. This, together with slash and burn clearance of forest for agricultural plots, are serious threats to Dakatcha Woodland.
Today, however, converting the land to Jatropha plantations presents an intensely greater threat. Once the forests, thickets and woodlands are cleared, their environmental services – water storage, soil protection, carbon sequestration, climate moderation and protection of biodiversity (source of food, medicine, cultural meaning and tourism opportunities) – will be lost to the community, the nation and the world.
Since 2006, Nature Kenya has been working with local groups to develop livelihood options that bring in money without destroying the forest. These options include, among others, keeping bees to produce honey for a ready market, growing trees as crops in woodlots and guiding visitors to see the special birds of Dakatcha Woodland and the strange eroded landforms of Hell's Kitchen and Bore-Singwaya depression. A number of local organizations recently came together to form the Dakatcha Woodland Conservation Group, and a Checklist of the Birds of Dakatcha Woodland has already been published. Farmers' groups are also teaching conservation agriculture – using practical farming methods to produce more from existing farmland rather than clearing new land.
The process of management planning started in 2010, initiated by Nature Kenya, working closely with local communities and Government agencies such as Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Wildlife Service.